El hamster, actually called Cricetinos (Cricetinae) belongs to a subfamily of rodents. More than 10 species have been recognized that are grouped into 7 genera. They believe that its origin comes from East Asia, from the desert lands, including species like the common Syrian hamster and the miniature Russian dwarf hamster.

Hamsters are used as domestic animals and in the wild they are rare and some species are in danger of extinction, they tend to spend their time digging and looking for food.

Adorable hamster

Adorable hamster

Species

Many species are found in the wild, but the vast majority of specimens are found in homes as pets. Of the large species, the Syrian hamster is the most common and can be up to 30 cm long, although its average size is about 20 cm.

  • Golden hamster

Dwarf hamsters

Dwarf hamsters are among the smallest species and they rarely reach more than 10 cm.

  • Dwarf russian hamster
  • Roborovski hamster
  • Chinese hamster
  • Vulgar hamster

Features

Currently, hamsters are very common as pets, living for about 2 or 3 years. Due to their nature, small size and calm temperament they are the first options for children. They are very lonely animals. They are so much so that if more than two hamsters live in the same territory, it is possible that they will fight each other to the death.

They are corpulent and their tails are shorter, reaching 1/6 of the body, with the exception of the Chinese species that has a tail the same length as its body. They have small, furry ears, short, sturdy legs, and broad feet. The hair is thick, silky and can be short or long in different colors such as black, gray, honey, white, yellow, red, brown or of various mixtures depending on the species.

They are extremely sensitive but their bones are very fragile. They are also extremely susceptible to rapid changes in temperature and drafts and extreme hot / cold.

They have 16 teeth, to prevent you from suffering if you lose any, which are in continuous growth, therefore, they must grind their teeth to prevent them from lengthening. Unlike other species, they are born with the complete set of teeth and will keep them throughout their lives.

Its two front legs, shaped like hands, have five fingers that are used to hold and search for food. The hind legs, which have three toes, are larger than the front legs and are used for balance and support when sitting. On the bottom of their legs they have soft pads to run smoothly and long nails on the end of each toe that serve to grip.

In the wild they are nocturnal animals, since during the day they will hide in their underground burrows in order to avoid their many predators. At night they will leave their dark and safe burrow to look for food, which they will insert into one of the large pouches they have on their cheeks.

Some species can run very fast and their small hind legs are capable of running at the same speed both forwards and backwards, allowing them to escape from their predators.

Senses

They have poor vision as they are nearsighted and color blind. They have olfactory glands on their flanks (in the case of Chinese and dwarf hamsters they have them in the abdomen) that they rub against the ground to leave a scent trail, which will be used by others to distinguish between the sexes and to find hidden food. They can hear and communicate with ultrasound as they are very sensitive to high-pitched noises.

Habitat

Hamsters inhabit desert regions throughout the world, looking for the soft sole to be able to burrow in it. The hamster burrow contains many tunnels and chambers, including different chambers for eating and sleeping.

Food

The hamster is an omnivorous animal, although they can survive on commercial food, it is preferable that they feed on nuts, seeds, vegetables, grass, fruits and berries. They are hindgut fermenting animals, that is, they eat their own feces to recover digested but not absorbed nutrients.

In the wild, Middle Eastern hamsters hunt in packs to hunt insects and thus increase the probability of capture.

Hamster feeding on nuts

Hamster feeding on nuts

Predators

Hamsters have numerous predators in the wild. Their biggest predator is Diamondback rattlesnakes (when young) that can easily enter their burrows. Other species of snakes such as the Kingsnakes, Gopher and Rat are also predators. Behind him are raptors such as the peregrine falcon, the common hawk, eagles and owls. Wild dogs and cats also eat hamsters.

Humans are also predators, because although they are raised as pets, in some parts of the world they are still considered a delicacy. In some areas of South America they are still eaten alongside guinea pigs.

Reproduction

Fertility

They will become fertile at different ages depending on what species they are. The ones that mature the fastest are the Russians and Syrians and can reproduce in 4 - 5 weeks, however the Chinese will not reproduce until three or four months of age.

A female can be fertile for about 18 months, while males can be fertile for much longer. She will go into heat every four days, indicated by a reddening of the genital areas, a musky odor, and a hissing, screeching vocalization that the female will emit if she detects a male nearby.

Gestation

Hamsters are seasonal, the breeding season will start in April to end in October and they will get pregnant several times a year having several cubs in each litter.

The number of litters can vary between species, with two to five litters containing one to 13 pups born after a gestation of 16 to 23 days. In Syrian hamsters it lasts between 16 and 18 days, in Russians between 18 and 21 days, in Chinese between 21 and 23 days and from 23 to 30 days for Roborovski.

Litters in Syrians can be about seven offspring but can reach 24, which is the maximum number of offspring that a uterus can contain. Syrian hamsters have between four and eight pups per litter and can have up to 13. The rest of the species have slightly smaller litters.

Intersex aggression and cannibalism

Female Chinese and Syrian hamsters are well known for their aggressiveness towards spot at certain times, especially if they are kept together after mating. Sometimes the female can attack to death, so it is recommended to remove them once the mating has finished.

They are also extremely sensitive during childbirth and if they think the calves are in danger they will eat them, although sometimes they may just carry them in their cheek pouches. As with males, if the offspring are kept for a long time (more than three weeks) they run the risk of cannibalizing themselves, so they must remove the offspring at the time they can feed themselves.

Weaning

They are born hairless and totally blind. After a week, they begin to explore around the nest. They are weaned at three to four weeks for Roborovski hamsters. In most stores they are sold once they have reached three to nine weeks.

Litter of dwarf hamsters in captivity

Litter of dwarf hamsters in captivity

State of conservation

In general, the hamster is considered a minor concern for its status as a pet, by everyone. However, some species in the wild are marked as "Vulnerable" in the red list such as the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus).

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